I was really excited about going to this race, not because it was Ladies only, although it’s a lovely idea to help encourage women who may be a intimidated by “normal” race to take part, not because it’s the only Brutal race to offer a medal at the end, not even because I know Brutal put on brilliant races, but because I was going to be running with one of my very best friends Viki.
When I first started getting into fitness properly, and doing my first few races, it was Viki that I did these things with. We were training partners, race buddies, and discovered a mutual love of getting muddy together, as life often does though, other commitments started getting in the way and we don’t often train together any more, although we are hoping to change that, and hadn’t actually run a race together since Back to the Trenches in 2014.
She picked me up really early and we set off to Greenham Common, about two and a half hours away, where we just about made it before their suggested 9.15am latest arrival after somehow ending up at a shooting range initially and getting a bit lost. We easily got our numbers from registration and it wasn’t long before it was time to get ready to run.
Our warm up was delivered as we were jogged down to the start line which was a short way from the finish, and once we were warmed up we counted down and set off.
As I was going to be running with Viki, I had wrapped up extra warm, with double base layers on, and so I was a comfortable temperature despite the gentle pace and cold day. The water that we were in and out of was icy, but no deeper than the tops of my thighs, but with my thermal 2xu leggings on the only part of me that ever really felt cold was my feet, and they soon warmed up again as we trotted along, at least until the next bout of cold water.
It was a beautiful place to run, and despite being a Brutal race, there was really only one properly horrible hill. There were some brilliant sections of deep mud, a deep red colour that must have been rich in iron, then I spotted a silvery patch, trod in it, and ended up sunk up to my hip! I made pretty short work of getting myself free though and laughing a lot we carried on.
Our second lap seemed to take no time at all, and pretty soon we were at the splitting point for the second time, and taking the fork to finish. This took us across a bit of the course we had not yet done, as the route was a bit like a lollypop shape, with two laps round the “lolly” part, then finishing down the “stick”. They weren’t making it as simple as a straight run to the finish though, and it was through a few more freezing sections of water, including one right up to the line, before finishing, which cleaned the shoes and leggings off nicely but left me with one really cold foot for hours later (not sure why it was only the one!). We collected our medals, got ourselves changed then treated ourselves a well earned burger before hitting the road and heading back home.
Even better than the race, which was brilliant, was the fact that Viki enjoyed being back in the mud and has already booked us up for the next one at the end of February! Thank you Brutal for another awesome race!
So we have arrived at the end of what has been a pretty brutal year both personally and for many of the people that I care about. I have decided to be hopeful for 2017 and good things to come, and I’m going to focus the last of this years blogs purely on the running. Two races to complete the year, and next year I’m going back to race by race blogs rather than monthly blogs. I just prefer it that way.
Downland Devil 9
My husband and I returned for a second year to take on this hilly 9 mile trail run. It was a freezing cold, but beautifully clear crisp and sunny winters morning, and as the race starts you straight up a hill you were soon warmed up from the cold.
Phil shot off determined to beat last years time, and I lost sight of him very quickly as I plodded along at a slower pace. I did want to beat my time if I could, but wasn’t going to beat myself up over it, with pain in both legs recently I wasn’t prepared to risk another more serious injury.
I soon remembered just how hilly this course was, and at 3 miles I was wondering yet again if this would be the race where I got my first DNF. I kept going, walking more of the hills than I care to admit, my head giving up long before my legs did, but as the miles ticked off my watch, I started to quite enjoy myself, especially as I was now over half way. There is a great downhill stretched followed by some flat running, past a frozen pond before its back up again for the final few hills.
The finish is my favourite part of the race, a long downhill stretch, and I love running downhill! I blasted past a couple of guys, one of whom decided to push back and chased me all the way to the line, I picked up the pace even more though to keep ahead before crossing the line. I had managed to beat last years time, taking 2 mins and 6 seconds off, and I know I could do better still with a bit more mental stamina on the hills, and (fingers crossed) less injuries allowing for better fitness both before and during the race. Hopefully I’ll be back again next year to shave a bit more time off.
The Christmas Pudding Dash
For my last race of the year I dusted off my elf costume and prepared to jingle all the way round 5 trial miles at Pett. The race venue had been moved a day or two before the race as the original venue had been deemed unsuitable at the last minute.
The course was through woods and over fields, with a few good hills thrown in, some of which beat me and reduced me to a walk (something I blaming on my bad back and niggly injuries that are still kicking about)
With the venue change came a change in the set up of the course, being one loop which came in at just under 5 miles, rather than the originally advertised two laps. As I lumbered up the final incline to the finish I was reminded how unfit I’ve been feeling lately, and how annoying it is to run in an elf dress with bells on! I was happy to be done and grab my Christmas pudding shaped medal, Christmas pudding and mince pie, but it was a really lovely run and the weather had been beautiful. I’m sure we’ll be going back again next year!
Charity for Kids 5 Mile Dash
I might have been done with races for 2016 but that didn’t stop me from getting out for a few last runs. This 5 mile run along Hastings Seafront a couple of days after Christmas was organised by Born Ready Fitness’ Chris Hawks, an unofficial event set up to raise some money for charity for kids. Turn up, chuck some money into the charity bucket, then join a bunch of other people for a 5 mile out and back run along the coast.
Another beautiful day made this a great way to burn off some of the holiday overindulgence and there was a great turn out which raised over £200 for Charity for Kids. This was the second year this run has been organised so if you are local keep an eye out and join in the next one for a good cause!
Brutal 10 Longmoor
Opps I lied, apparently I wasn’t done with races in 2016 after all, and squeezed one last run in on the last day of the year. This race had been on my radar for a while, but I had been unable to convince the hubby, who wants more than a days rest before our next race on the 2nd Jan, so I wrote it off as I had no way to get there, however a few days before the race I found out some friends were going, and were happy to give me a lift, so I decided to sign up for the full 16km after all.
I very quickly started to regret my decision to do two laps rather than just 8km, having not run that far in months since my last spate of injury, I felt sluggish, and as faster people overtook me I thought I was going so slowly. This was a terrible mindset for the whole of the first lap, as I kept telling myself I should quit after one lap, that I didn’t want to go up those hills again, at one point I had myself completely convinced I should stop, I hardly paid any attention to what was going on, the beautiful trails and technical downhills, I was missing everything in my own self destructive thoughts. As I went through the penultimate bit of cold water a marshal called out to myself and the lady in front of me that we were the 16th and 17th lady to pass through, and I was really surprised, I genuinely thought I was running so badly.
I got to end of the first lap, and kind of surprised myself as I directed my feet to carry on rather than take the fork to the finish. I literally decided at the last second to carry on and finish what I had set out to do. I think for me it was a really important decision, I’ve been far to apt to quit lately, my head convincing me that my body cant do it anymore, and had I walked off that course that may have been me done with running, confidence finally knocked down to far to come back from, but I didn’t quit, and suddenly I was enjoying myself. The running was more comfortable, I didn’t have my own stupid brain telling me to just quit this time, I actually sped up, started over taking a few people. Mentally I was much stronger and this translated to my running. I started to realise what a good course it was, hilly, tough, cold water, tricky down hills, sand. I was finally smiling and by the time I finished I was exhausted but really happy, yet again impressed by the quality of race put on by Brutal and wondering when I could get back again to do another one. A great way to finish the year.
After the disaster that was January was over, it was time to start looking for some silver linings. My husband told me to book some races, so that’s exactly what I did, giving me the motivation to start getting my training back on track, fighting through the fatigue that was still plaguing me as we moved into February.
To start with training was tough, running was difficult and I was having to walk up hills I could previously run up, but I persevered and the first weekend in February I took on my first organised race of 2016, the Ashford and District 10k.
Ashford and District 10k
Last year I ran this race in 53mins, but due to my lack of stamina and training lately, coupled with a cold that had reared up a few days prior to the run, I thought it was unlikely I would beat my time this year. The route was the same as in 2015, an out and back 10k on closed off country roads, a pleasant run with some hills thrown in to make it interesting (last years blog can be read here)
I felt like I was struggling from the start, mostly because breathing with a bunged up nose is fairly difficult, and I just felt slow. Just after the turn around point I got an awful stitch in my left side, which slowed me down further. I pushed on and did manage to get up the hill without stopping, and picked up the pace a little again on the downhill stretch to the finish, but I was unsurprised to find I had run the race 2 mins slower than last year. Still I had got round, and the medal this year was immense! Confidence a little knocked and worried about the next few races I have booked up in Feb, here’s hoping I can finish those too!
Another week of training followed the Ashford and District 10k which did nothing to build my confidence, my running was slow and painful, with stitches plaguing me, and a particularly pitiful PT session, where being taken up the East Hill steps turned into a slow puffed out walk rather than a run, as the next weekend rolled around I was feeling pretty crappy.
Brutal 10 – Bagshot
Despite feeling worried all week about this run, I was still looking forward to going, as it felt like a long time since I had done anything fun and muddy. I travelled with my friend Russ to the race and we had a good chat and a giggle on the way there and were in high spirits by the time we arrived despite the cold and rainy weather and early start. After hellos and hugs with some people it had been far to long since I’d last seen it was time for a warm up and run.
The course is two 5km laps that incorporate a lot of hills and a fair bit of water, I set off steady, wanting to just enjoy running again, and trotted around at a pace that was easy for me to maintain without causing me to be unable to breath (still got this stupid cold). Up steep hills, the downhill sections that followed were as challenging as the up, and through freezing water up to about waist height, leaving my feet numb! By the time I finished I was absolutely freezing, but with a massive smile on my face. The race had done what I had needed it to do, it had reminded me that I can really enjoy running. I’m really pleased I decided to tag along with Russ for this little road trip, I’d definitely do a Brutal 10 again. Finally I think I should also just say a little thank you to Tim Lovett for trying to help warm me up, with a lovely big hug and wrap in extra dryrobe warmth after I’d finished and changed and gone over to say goodbye but was unable to stop shivering. It was much appreciated!
The weekend after Brutal I went along with my husband to run a fairly local 5 mile road race. It was a bit chilly, and very windy as we set off over the pavements around the village of Wittersham where the race was held. The start of the race seemed to be all downhill, leaving me worried that the end would conversely be all up hill, however the ups were gentle and it turned out to be quite a nice run. The roads, although not closed off, were quiet with very little traffic, with much of the course set on little country lanes. Despite a pulled hamstring hubby Phil still managed to outstrip me running, but I did manage a sprint finish, coming in 2mins behind him to grab my medal and goody bag that contained a protein shake and cereal bar (the promised soup for finishers on the website was noticeably missing however!) Overall a nice little run to fill some time on a Sunday morning.
I intended to have an easier training week after the Tenterden 5, proceeding Judgement Day the following weekend, but I ended up doing 2 circuit classes, a PT session and taking myself out for a run where I just kept going and ended up running a half marathon distance, so I failed a bit at that!
I’m normally really excited on the lead up to an OCR race, (so much so I once blogged about it) and this was to be my first in 3 months, but I just wasn’t looking forward to it, I was feeling really detached from it all and like I didn’t really belong there, a weird and disconcerting feeling. I was hoping that I would feel better after the race.
Judgement Day Bordon – 12km
It was a really early start, and after only 3 hours sleep my mood wasn’t at its most sparkling! As I waited on the start line, rather than excitement I just felt cold and miserable about the thought of running by myself, but time waits for no man and it was soon time to cross the line and get on with the job at hand.
This was the third time I have run Judgement Day at Bordon and every single time the race has been completely different from the last one. This time we had started and would finish inside a building and we started with a decent run out before clambering over some hurdles. The race was of the usual excellent standard that I have come to expect from JD events, but I still wasn’t feeling it. The obstacles were good, the heights freaked me out and left me shaken, the monkey bars and later rope traverse hurt the hands but I did feel amazing when I didn’t fall off the traverse into the waiting water below! The one that everyone was talking about though was the sandbag carry, which took us three times out and back through a freezing cold lake. Six crossings of cold water that varied on me from knee to chest deep, all the while lugging a heavy sandbag was an interesting form of torture. The race finished with a rig, a wall and a pretty chunky medal.
This race ticked all the boxes and should have restored my love, a great course, good obstacles, wonderful strangers to help me over walls, even better friends to do likewise, or just to give me a much needed hug before, during or after, and a great group of people to travel to the race with but I’m still on a low. The highlight of my day was seeing a lot of people who have become very good friends over the past couple of years, but somewhere, somehow I’ve lost my buzz and most of my confidence and with just the Hastings half marathon left currently booked on my race calendar this year I don’t know where I’ll pop up next, I guess just watch this space!